The Breast Cancer Diaries | Part 15Laura Ann Miller
The Surgeries & More Cancer
Monday | June 27, 2022
Last night I was feeling anxious and a little sad for myself. I could feel all the frustrations of having cancer start to rise up and take control of my thoughts.
We made it home late Saturday/early Sunday morning. Today I go right back to the hospital. I need to pick up my records and meet with a plastic surgeon this afternoon. My fairytale vacation escape is bookended with these appointments.
It’s easy to rail against it all, but I know if I go down that path it’s hard to come back up. By God’s grace and goodness I stopped going that direction and found wonder and gratitude for what these last two weeks held. This time with friends and family, time in the beauty of nature, feeling well enough to enjoy it all – this is what I longed for during those last few weeks of chemo. I am filled with this time and these memories. I’ll keep this in my heart and let it carry me the rest of the way up this mountain.
After my consult with the plastic surgeon-
I wish I would have recorded my conversation with Mike afterwards…
The plastic surgeon was incredibly kind and knowledgeable. He spent a long time with me and Mike.
The conversation stopper came down to insurance. It seems so complicated. Based on my oncology breast surgeon’s recommendation I want to go with a breast saving lumpectomy with oncoplastic surgery. Since the area being treated is quite large she feels it is important to have the oncoplastic surgery at the same time as the lumpectomy. But today my surgeon let us know insurance does not always cover reconstruction for a lumpectomy, only a mastectomy. So here’s where more frustration sets in,
“According to BreastCancer.org, The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 requires all group health plans that pay for mastectomy to also cover prostheses and reconstructive procedures…”
This information is provided by Breastcancer.org.
This reconstructive right is guaranteed for women undergoing a mastectomy. I’m not sure that I’m guaranteed this same right for a lumpectomy after cancer. I’m picking the breast saving option, this will be less invasive, requires a shorter healing period, no overnight stay in the hospital, not to mention the complicated path of reconstruction… overall it may be a more cost effective for my cancer care, but this option may leave me with a breast that is a cup size smaller than my other breast, not to mention scarring and divits where the cancerous areas will be removed. This oncoplastic reconstruction would provide symmetry to my breasts and help my body feel whole again after cancer treatments are over with. I’m overwhelmed with all the options and fearful of making the wrong decision. I didn’t realize this option would include surgery on both sides. And as much as we tried to understand our insurance coverage, the possibility of this not being covered seems unfair.
The office manager asked me to think about what I want for myself first and then worry about insurance later. But I can’t. My mind wonders about the cost, the years ahead. What if this isn’t covered? Will my misshapen self really be that bad? Do I really need reconstruction or can I live without it? It feels selfish to consider this surgery if it will cost our family thousands of dollars.
Why should a woman battling cancer have to battle for coverage rights too?
Maybe when I get through all of this I can fight for lumpectomies to be included in the women’s health and cancer act.
Wednesday | June 29, 2022
I don’t know what to do about my boobs…
This is the only thought going through my mind today.
Phone calls and internet reading- I’ve sent Mike texts with quotes and links from every article I’ve read. I’ve spent today in pajamas. Mostly on the couch under a blanket or in the bathroom. My stomach is in knots. It hasn’t been right since stopping chemo, but today it’s worse. I think I’ll have some peace once we make a decision. But figuring it out is difficult.
Do we do cosmetic surgery along with the lumpectomy (oncoplastic surgery) or do we wait for another surgery down the line? Everything I’ve read points both directions!
Thursday | June 30, 2022
God’s good word and reminder to me again and again…
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
And I am thinking about what my dad reminded me of last week. If you lack wisdom ask God.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Lord, please give us wisdom for surgery. Help me trust where you have guided us and not doubt. Help me to go confidently in the direction you’ve provided.
Friday | July 1st, 2022
Today is our 22 year anniversary.
I’ve been a weepy mess this week and I today I feel awful and guilty because I don’t want to get out of bed. I made it out though, into the warm water washing over me in the shower. Freeing me…
I put on makeup, my favorite perfume and my pale blue sundress with the smocked v-neck. These little things freed me too, to enjoy this time with Mike.
He woke me up early and surprised me with a beautiful bracelet and a breakfast date at our favorite little coffee house. I love the simplicity of little things like spending time together over a cup of coffee. He took me here for Friday morning chemo dates too. It feels good to be here on a day where we are celebrating our life and love together. Nothing more. I try to block out the other things, but all the moments of life swirl together in memories and time.
A man with tattoos covering his arm walked up to the counter across from our table. He took his time ordering and I read the words written large along his right arm, Never Give Up. I wondered what battle his words were a reminder for. And I thought about cancer and myself and Mike on this journey…
Never Give Up.
Tuesday | July 5, 20222
Another reminder to rejoice, hope, persevere…
“…And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Sunday | July 10, 2022
Patience for the promises of God-
“We hold on, even when we don’t feel like holding on.”
-Pastor Stephan Tchividjian
We must reconnect to the presence and peace of God.
“The presence and peace of God is personal. God knows you by name. Do I know him by name? When I speak of my Jesus…?”
Yes. Thank you Lord.
Monday | July 11, 2022
Pump me full of poison
Cut me up
Burn my insides
My surgery date is set. We chose to do both surgeries at the same time.
I’m on to step two in this process for healing. It’s not for the faint of heart. But that’s me. I am faint of heart. I’m learning to how to brave through it all. I try to be, but I’m still scared sometimes. I’m the only one who can go through each of these treatments to bring this healing to my body. These are the places I endure alone.
Wednesday | July 13, 2022
I’m still anxious. I grabbed tums, pepto bismal, and advil on my way out the door today. Mike is heading with me to my pe-op appointment with the plastic surgeon.
It’s just us in the waiting room at first. I picked our seats next to the side table with the giant clam shell. Little details like a giant seashell in the waiting room bring me comfort in this place. But I’m filling out a thick stack of consent forms and reading details about all the possible bad outcomes… Another woman comes into the waiting room and checks in. I’m used to all my doctor appointments and being around others who are sick, but then I hear her say, “I’m here for my facial.” This is an office for cosmetic and plastic surgery… I’m instantly self conscious of my bald sick self and simultaneously jealous that she’s here to be pampered…
Thursday | July 14, 2022
I dropped my favorite son off at the airport this morning and of course took the scenic drive home. I couldn’t resist the beauty of today as I drove down A1A. I put a few bucks in the parking meter and my toes in the sand. A perfect spot to pause and be still this morning-
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging… He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
-Psalm 46:1-3, 10
The water may not have been raging in the ocean today, but I know how storms roll in and conditions change. And I still need this reminder, “God is our refuge and strength.” I’m frustrated when I read back over my journal entries over how quickly I let fear and worry get to me on this journey. But God doesn’t tire of reminding me He is with me. He doesn’t tire of answering my restless prayers for peace. He gives me a moment alone in my favorite place and a devotion written for all my anxious thoughts.
And I’m reminded again at Trader Joe’s when I spot another tattoo with a message- Isaiah 53:5. I know immediately I need to look it up. And this is the verse my sister shared with me at the beginning of my cancer diagnosis. I think of my surgery coming up, hoping my surgeon gets every centimeter of cancer… Lord, will I be healed? I read and reread these words. I can’t fully comprehend them. Thank you Jesus for the peace and healing you bring for someone so undeserving.
““But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
When I finally made it home and flopped down on the couch with a fresh cup of coffee, much to my delight, there was a Jaws marathon on the SYFY channel. My absolute favorite summer movie along with all the horrible sequels. Today is full of good things and I’m thankful.
Saturday | July 16, 2022
Today marks the beginning of my journey towards surgery. Mike went with me for my scheduled Covid test at Walgreens. I scheduled it online and was able to do the test in my car at the drive through pharmacy window. One of the easiest PCR test processes so far in these past couple of years. I should get the results back in plenty of time before my surgery. Now to just stay put awhile longer.
Tuesday | July 19, 2022
Today is another pre-op appointment. This one at the cancer center- bloodwork, an EKG, and an X-ray.
My devotional today is titled, Learning to Wait On God: Trust. The last lines stirred in my mind and heart,
“I’ve thought about that experience lots of times, those anxious hours waiting for deliverance. But only when we began to nurture the wait with trust did deliverance come. If like Daniel you’re waiting in some den of hopelessness, won’t you spend some time as he did – trusting God?”
-Sue Monk Kidd
My trust is in God through this process, but it’s hard to pray the words, Lord please heal my body. I’ve easily asked the Lord for peace and strength over and over again all these months. But today I confessed my fear and doubt. I don’t understand sickness. I don’t understand healing. Lord help me to trust you completely for all things.
The second part of this reading today? It’s Exodus 14:13-15! Again. I wrote this verse down in my journal months ago. Thank you Lord for your goodness.
“Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.’
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.’”
The Lord has this.
“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
2 Timothy 4:17-18
Wednesday | July 20, 2022
The day before surgery
Reading Grandma’s Bible
Phone call with my mom
A gift from my sis
Painting with August
A prayer with Julia and her Dad
Thursday | July 21, 2022
I am covered in prayers. I’m nervous, but not overly so. This is a miracle. Answered prayers for this day already.
9:00 am -part one- my pre-op procedures- This seems unfair. With surgery I’ll be a sleep, but for this part I’m a participant. There are 3 steps to part one, measuring the liquid in my arm before surgery, this is to have a baseline incase of a complication called lymphedema. Step two, getting three radioactive “seeds” placed in my breast for surgical guides for my breast surgeon. Step three a color injection to highlight my lymph nodes.
Pink robe and lavender scented aromatherapy patch- check. The first step was quick and painless. I had to stand on a machine barefoot and place my palms on the thin metal pads at the top of the machine as it pulsed and clicked and took the liquid measurements in my arm. The second step was the longest and most painful as I was squeezed and pulled and X-rayed in the mammogram machine over and over to get the exact measurements and positioning for the cancer and radioactive seed placement. Seed placement sounds much nicer than the actual procedure… the whole process from walking in to walking out took 2 hours and 13 minutes and 7 injections in my breast. I did not get nauseous or dizzy this time. I endured and walked out into to Mike’s arms.
It was hard to go through all that and know I wasn’t done. I had to get in the car and head across the street and check in again for part two, the surgeries. But we did it together.
11: 25 – Part Two – Surgery
Mike pulled us up to the valet at the hospital and somehow we found our way and got checked in. We were only together a little while before they came to take me back and we hugged goodbye. I signed more papers and answered medical questions. I changed into the most awkward paper hospital gown I’ve ever had to wear. Then found out I put it on wrong. It was me, a paper gown and some ugly hospital socks. So much was happening and I tried to get comfortable but I was nervous. My plastic surgeon showed up and it was a releif to see a kind familiar face. At least for a moment… but then I had to try and stand still and hold my gown part way up as best I could with my hands at my side while he took measurements and marked me up with the purple markers. This was all happening as he explained procedures to a resident doctor who was with him. I managed not to drop the gown get covered back up and find cover and comfort back under the warm blankets of my hospital bed. The best part was my surgeon stayed a moment extra to talk with me and distract me while my nurse got my iv in place. I saw my oncologist as well for a brief moment. I was handed my phone to call Mike, I think I was trying to find out if he was still in the waiting room to let the team know. All at once there were people around me… Mike was at Starbucks, wondering why I was calling. I’m not sure I knew either, but I said I love you and I don’t think I was able to tell them where he was before I was completely out. Praise the Lord!
Waking up, getting dressed and into the wheelchair to head home was hard. I might have been one of the last patients there in that outpatient area… I felt dizzy and nauseous. We got home around 11:30 pm. Mike tried to tell me something about the importance of moving around and walking, but I just wanted my pain medicine and bed.
Sunday | July, 24, 2022
I am making it through the pain and healing and propped up sleeping. I was so excited to be able to shower today. Mike is so good and kind in the way he takes care of me. He helped me shower. I made sure to have my back to the water and tried to wash so gently, but it was too much. I felt shaky and nauseous from seeing all my tape and bruises and stitches and the sense of water on my skin. He quickly helped me out of the shower and back into bed. Water, pain medicine, sleep.
Thursday | July, 29, 2022
“so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Live a worthy life
Have great endurance
Give thanks joyfully
Share the kingdom of light
I am rescued
I am redeemed
I am forgiven
Thank you Jesus
The waves keep rolling in. Pounding and rolling. Pounding and rolling. I’m caught underneath waiting again to surface… but maybe I’m viewing this all wrong. There’s something more to this story. There’s something God wants to teach me about life and cancer.
It isn’t contained in a bubble like I want.
Tonight my mom called to tell me she found out her breast biopsy was malignant. She got her call while I was in surgery having my breast cancer removed.
We talked a long time. We pondered the craziness of it all, developed our own unscientific theories about cancer and we laughed.
I’m mad my mom has it. None of it makes sense. I’m already worried about my sister and then my mind goes to our girls… my immediate, unholy thought? We’re all screwed. We’re all gonna get cancer. Me, mom, my sister, our daughters, my husband… I might have well as thrown myself into a ditch along with my worst case scenarios. I calmed down, flopped on the couch next to Coco and ate some dark chocolate. I thought about my devotion this morning. I thought about a text I had typed hours earlier, God is good.
My cancer is gone. My mom has cancer. God is still good. He doesn’t change when our circumstances do. I didn’t wait to declare God’s goodness only when my cancer was removed, I’ve known His goodness throughout this journey. But these storms sweep in and the waves crash over me…
knocked off balance,
Thank you Jesus.